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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
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Who Fears Death (edition 2010)

by Nnedi Okorafor

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4763421,697 (3.8)85
Member:rossarn
Title:Who Fears Death
Authors:Nnedi Okorafor
Info:Daw Books (2010), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

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Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

  1. 10
    Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (PhoenixFalls)
  2. 21
    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Who Fears Death is post-apocalyptic futuristic fantasy and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms draws from classical sword and sorcery, but both are excellent novels about heroines who have found themselves beset and gifted (or possibly cursed) by powers beyond reckoning, while caught up in a political and supernatural power struggle that spans generations and eventually time itself.… (more)
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I wanted to like this but....so-o-o violent. And paced like a screenplay, one bloodbath after another. Not likely to enlighten anybody who may misguidedly think that Africa and dystopia are already synonymous. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Who Fears Death is a fantasy novel set in a post-apocalyptic Africa. It is a well developed world where there are three main tribes subsisting in the desert. Magic or “juju” is used by several in this land where there is some technology, left over computers. There are sorcerers and a few sorceresses who practice strong magic. It is an elaborate world that Okorafor creates.

This is a book that raises many issues. Racism is one theme that is repeatedly explored. There are two warring tribes, the Nuru and Okeke, who are separated as the ruling class and slaves. The Nuru begin a process of genocide against the Okeke and extreme violence follows. Children from Okeke and Nuru parents are considered a separate race, Ewu, and are looked down upon and treated poorly by everyone. The protagonist, Onyesonwu, is a child resulting from the violent rape of her Okeke mother by a Nuru man. Onyesonwu and another Ewu, Mwita, are treated as outcasts and are both verbally and physically assaulted due to their different looks. Differences in the physical appearance of each in the tribes is outlined in much detail by Okorafor.

The status of women is another issue raised by this book. Women are not treated with the same equality as men. If an Okeke woman is raped and becomes pregnant her husband leaves her. The woman is left alone with the pain and shame. Old rituals are also performed. The prime one being the “Eleventh Year Rite” in which the girls undertake genital mutilation and magic is practiced on them that causes them to have pain whenever they have sexual relations. Once again much responsibility and shame is placed on the woman’s shoulders.

Onyesonwu is a character that challenges the societal conventions. Though she faces many struggles, she is ultimately an extremely powerful and strong character. The book is written in first person from the perspective on Onyesonwu and we get to follow her as she grows and makes her way through the world. I found this narrative style very easy to read and the book was able to continually capture my attention and pull me into it. Onyesonwu is a very sympathetic and generally likable character, though at times you want to scold her for doing and saying some of the things she does. All of the characters were written in such a way that each elicits specific emotions from the reader.

Using a fantasy/post-apocalyptic world as a means to showcase how societies can treat others is a brilliant touch by Okorafor. Even without the messages and issues that are faced by the protagonist and others this is a remarkable tale. The fact that rape, genital mutilation, status of women, and racism are all touched upon in this book make it even more valuable. The important messages are provided in an unusual and magical setting that makes reading the book extremely enjoyable.

I am personally a sucker for books where magic plays a role and there are strong female protagonists so this book definitely hits the spot. It is a beautifully written and well constructed tome that provides a bit of insight in how people behave. I would recommend this for anyone to read regardless of whether or not they are a fan of fantasy.

My review can also be found here
  dragonflyy419 | Feb 6, 2014 |
Post-apocalyptic fantasy set in Africa. A powerful novel I feel in no way qualified to talk about because it touches on so much, which is a shame. It’s a good story. Definitely the best I’ve read this month. Some of the twists didn’t work for me and the plot is pretty standard fare, true, but Who Fears Death‘s strength lies in the world-building and the atmosphere of the setting. It’s utterly excellent and I enjoyed learning more about the world and the characters. The characters are good too and very believable. ( )
  lynnoconnacht | Oct 7, 2013 |
Onyesonwu is an Ewu, a child of hatred. Her mother is a dark skinned Okeke and her father was a yellow-brown skinned Naru who raped her mother. She lives in a world where the Great Book justifies the enslavement and subjugation of the Okeke by the Naru and fuels brutal enslavement, abuse and genocide of the Okeke that has driven her mother to the east, away from the fighting, to live in an Okeke town.

But, as an Ewu, even the Okeke revile her as a child of shame and violence, doomed to perpetrate that violence herself. Onyesonwu is also an Eshu – a shapeshifter – and a gifted potential sorceress but even trying to meet that potential is hemmed in on every side because of her blood and because of her gender.

With anger and passion, Onyesonwu and Mwita, a fellow Ewu, challenge the restrictions placed upon her, demand the respect and position she deserves and ultimately wins friends and training –albeit both heavily coloured by the prejudice she faces. Unable to tolerate the hatred and the killing, Onyesonwu turns her eyes back to the west, at the genocide’s heart, and is determined with her few friends to stop it, though it is a long journey through many hostile places. By magic or will, with a thin thread of prophecy for hope, she will find her father and end the killing.

This is a story about growth in many ways. Onyesonwu’s journey from happy childhood, difficult coming of age, then her resolve no longer to live with the world that she’s in and a determination to change it. Through the book we see her learn and change and grow, from a small child to a powerful sorceress, she is shaped by the world around her and it’s fascinating (but slow) to see.

We see how prejudice – both against her Ewu mixed blood and as a woman – shape her. How it both enrages her and constantly blocks her – and drives her to change things. She has a lot of passion and anger – some of which is directed destructively, as one would expect, but most is driven to push down the barriers and insist that she not be held back or stopped because of her race or gender and her determination, even her violent determination, to battle against those who treat her poorly because of it. Sometimes through demanding they treat her properly, refusing to accept their words and actions and sometimes through revenge.

The story has some really strong characters that grow along with Onyesonwu with both Mwita and Luyu growing and changing with their own experiences and learning. Even though they are secondary characters, they are still grown and developed rather than just being extension of Onyesonwu.

Read More ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Sep 20, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"Dear friends, are you afraid of death?" - Patrice Lumumba, first and only elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo
Dedication
To my amazing father, Dr. Godwin Sunday Daniel Okoroafor, M.D., F.A.C.S. (1940-2004).
First words
My life fell apart when I was sixteen.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Well-known for young adult novels (The Shadow Speaks; Zahrah the Windseeker), Okorafor sets this emotionally fraught tale in postapocalyptic Saharan Africa. The young sorceress Onyesonwu—whose name means Who fears death?—was born Ewu, bearing a mixture of her mother's features and those of the man who raped her mother and left her for dead in the desert. As Onyesonwu grows into her powers, it becomes clear that her fate is mingled with the fate of her people, the oppressed Okeke, and that to achieve her destiny, she must die. Okorafor examines a host of evils in her chillingly realistic tale—gender and racial inequality share top billing, along with female genital mutilation and complacency in the face of destructive tradition—and winds these disparate concepts together into a fantastical, magical blend of grand storytelling.
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Born into post-apocalyptic Africa to a mother who was raped after the slaughter of her entire tribe, Onyesonwu is tutored by a shaman and discovers that her magical destiny is to end the genocide of her people.

(summary from another edition)

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